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A Chinese missile is heading towards Earth out of control

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The US Department of Defense is currently tracking pieces of a Chinese missile. They are expected to hit the earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled re-entry in the coming days. However, it is not yet clear where exactly the parts of the rocket will land. The exact location at which the rocket will hit the earth’s surface will only be known within “hours” of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, the US space command, a branch of the US military, reported in a statement on Tuesday.

The Chinese missile was launched on April 29th. The core of the rocket is expected to return to Earth around May 8, ”said the space command. However, the exact trajectory is still unclear. The rocket is currently in orbit in space and will fall back to Earth uncontrollably. Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told CNN that the rocket was traveling at 29,000 kilometers per hour. As a result, a tiny change in their position could change their trajectory significantly.

Based on the missile’s current orbit, the debris could fall as far north as New York City, Madrid or Beijing, and as far south as southern Chile, Wellington, New Zealand. The news agency “Reuters” reported. Much of the rocket will likely burn up when it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere. However, experts are concerned that some debris could reach the earth. While there is a risk that the pieces could hit a populated piece of land, the likelihood is higher that they will not. Almost two thirds of the earth’s surface consists of water and most of the land area is unpopulated. Astrophysicist McDowell also says the risk that the debris will cause damage is “fairly small”. But it’s not zero either. The last time a Chinese Long March 5B missile hit the surface of the earth, the debris allegedly landed on buildings in two villages in Ivory Coast.

McDowell commented on this to Space News, saying that it was “unacceptable” to allow debris to enter the atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner. “Since 1990 nothing over ten tons has been intentionally left in orbit to re-enter uncontrollably,” he said. The core of the rocket is said to weigh about 21 tons. When asked by a reporter about the Chinese missile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the US “has an obligation to address the risks of increasing space debris congestion.” The Long March 5B missile carried the first parts of China’s planned space station, which the country plans to complete in space by 2022. The launch was one of eleven planned missions to build the station.

This article was translated from English and edited by Julia Knopf. You can read the original here.

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